This is a picture of me and my sisters as we cared for our sister Nancy. My niece Brandy is here with her mom too!
I spoke today in Church and I have a strong feeling that I should share my talk. So I don't know who might read it but whoever would like to it is here.
Our Eternal Family
I am the product of a family of 8 girls and one boy. I am the 4th daughter, born within 4 ½ years and the five younger kids were born after a break of four years. My youngest sister was born 12 years after I was. From the first to the last there is a 16 year spread. There are a lot of things going on in a family with so many different ages! But if you looked at us today, you would not really know that. We are all very good friends with each other and have had some remarkable experiences to make those ties even stronger this year.
I have shared with you some of the events of my life this year as I have struggled with losing my mother in May, watching my sister quickly go down hill from cancer, spending a week tending her and then the week after I returned in October, having her pass away. Then just this past December my father was diagnosed with Brain cancer, had surgery and is in the process of trying to survive longer than a year…which is the longest prognosis of at least 50% of the people with Gioblastoma. This has been a tough year. Some would look heavenward and wonder if there truly was someone there who cared what happened to us.
But I am not one of those. I know I am a Child of God. I know our families here on earth are just extensions of what we share as a heavenly family.
President Hinckley reminded us of our Heavenly Father in April of 2003 conference talk while addressing the primary children: I quote “You have an earthly father. He is your mother’s dear companion. I hope you love him and that you are obedient to him. But you have another father. That is your Father in Heaven. He is the Father of your spirit, just as your earthly father is the father of your body. And it is just as important to love and to obey your Father in Heaven as it is to love and obey your earthly father.
We speak with our earthly father. He is our dear friend, our protector, the one who usually supplies our food and clothing and home. But we also speak to our Father in Heaven. We do this with prayer. I hope that every night and every morning you get on your knees and speak with your Father in Heaven. I hope that in the morning you will express thanks for the night’s rest, for warmth and comfort and the love you feel in your home. I hope that you will ask Him to watch over you and bless and guide you throughout the day. I hope that you will pray for your father and mother and brothers and sisters, and that you will remember all who are sick and in need. I hope you will remember the missionaries of the Church as you pray.
In the evening before you go to sleep, I hope you will again get on your knees and thank Him for the blessings of the day. Thank Him again for your parents and for your teachers. Ask Him to bless you with good sleep and to bless all others, and particularly those in need and who do not have enough food or a good place to sleep. It is not asking too much, is it, to take a few minutes of each day to speak with your Father in Heaven when you know that you are a child of God?
If you really know that you are a child of God, you will also know that He expects much of you, His child. He will expect you to follow His teachings and the teachings of His dear Son, Jesus. He will expect you to be generous and kind to others. He will be offended if you swear or use foul language. He will be offended if you are dishonest in any way, if you should cheat or steal in the slightest. He will be happy if you remember the less fortunate in your prayers to Him. He will watch over you and guide you and protect you. He will bless you in your schoolwork and in your Primary. He will bless you in your home, and you will be a better boy or girl, obedient to your parents, quarreling less with your brothers and sisters, helping about the home.
Never forget, my dear young friends, that you really are a child of God who has inherited something of His divine nature, one whom He loves and desires to help and bless. I pray that our Heavenly Father will bless you. May He smile with favor upon you. May you walk in His paths and follow His teachings. May you never speak the evil language that boys and girls are inclined to speak at school. May you ever be prayerful unto Him, praying always in the name of His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. May each of us resolve to always follow Him in faith. May life be kind to you, for you are indeed a child of God, worthy and deserving of His love and blessing.” Unquote.
I know I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and I have been blessed to receive some wonderful blessings to prove this to my family. These are spiritual blessings that have been given to my earthly family but I would like to relate some of these to you.
My mother has always been a server. She could not sit and talk without doing something! The week she died (she passed away on a Saturday night) she worked at the Bountiful temple on Friday and Saturday morning, she mowed the lawn (they live on the top of a steep hill and have corresponding lawn to match the hills) she crocheted every time she sat down, she watered the yard, she weeded and picked produce from her bountiful garden…you get the picture. There was no one who was not surprised to see her leave her earthly life. My dad told her he was headed to bed, like he does most nights because she was always crocheting or sewing something and she said she would be up in a minute. She was fixing a mistake on a circle table skirt that she had decided she needed to make for me (she had asked me if I had a round table, and since I did she was sure I needed a crocheted table cloth!) and wanted to finish fixing it before going to bed. She was mad at herself for making a mistake, but hadn’t ever done this pattern before and so had to take out three rows to correct it. It was almost finished when dad went to bed. By her side on each side of her were infant blessing dresses she had started to crochet for my two new grandbabies that were born this past summer.
Dad woke up in the morning with lights still on which mother never left on and quickly went downstairs to find mom with crochet hook still in hand and a surprised look on her face. She had not been expecting it to be her time either! She had passed just a few minutes after my dad had gone to bed the night before.
This was a blessing in our family’s lives that we would not realize until later during the year. How could we rejoice because our mother had passed away? But Heavenly Father had a plan. We do not know the big picture, but he was setting some things in motion that proved his love for us.
My sister Nancy (she is the second daughter) was diagnosed in August of 2008 with Breast Cancer. She had very strong impressions that she was not supposed to have a radical mastectomy or chemotherapy. She felt as if she was instructed to find alternate things to see if she could get better. She researched every day trying to find another way. She probably had cancer in other places when she was first diagnosed and Heavenly Father knew that her time on earth was limited. She had an amazing year! We had a sisters reunion with my mother in March, all attending the temple with my parents, that was such a huge blessing and she was able to be there for my mother’s funeral and come in July for a sisters clean out of the house. We spent more time together this past year than any year since we were married. We became so close to each other. Love abounded and spiritual feasts were poured out upon us.
Then in September the cancer showed it ugly face in many other ways and she did not know how her husband could work and still take care of her. My sisters and I gathered around her and flew to Kansas and took care of her and her family until she passed away. What an amazing experience that was.
There were spiritual eyes opened that allowed us to see through the veil and know Heavenly Father had a plan and that he loved us and wanted us to know that!
We found out through this experience that Mother was taken to help Nancy through the last week of her life. She and my grandmother, my mother’s mother, were by Nancy’s bedside, Nancy having conversations with them, with a smile on her face, while the pain was so terrible. She was so happy to see them that the pain became secondary.
A few days before Nancy passed, my oldest sister was the one staying with her and my mom came to her as she was waking up, temple dress on, yes the one we buried her in, and looking much younger and handed my sister some papers. Across the top of the pages were the words “Mission Release, Transfer”. My sister quickly looked at Nancy to see if she had passed, but she was still there. Heavenly Father wanted us to know, not just through Nancy, but for all of us still left, that there was a place for her and my mother was a part of that place.
In (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith , 335). I quote “Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body”. Heavenly Father loves us.
In D&C 76: 23-24 we read: 23 For we saw him, even on the bright hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— 24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
He is our Father. He would not put us on this earth to flounder without some guidance. He, through our faith and spiritual worthiness, instructs us and helps us. It is his and our Savior Jesus’ work and glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of each one of us! Because he wants us to be with him forever, just like we want to always have our earthly families with us forever. We are brothers and sisters to each other and those connections help us to stay close as siblings and parents and through Jesus Christ our Father in Heaven has allowed us to progress to work to come home.
My mother did not come out of the womb knowing how to serve. But she developed those characteristics in heaven while we lived with our Heavenly Father. The talents she helped us develop as her children were part of us because our Heavenly Father helped us develop those before we came to earth.
We each possess different talents and abilities, and we were called to do different things on earth. Each of us have unique abilities and we have been for ordained, just as prophets and apostles have been foreordained, to do unique things on this earth. It is up to us. We have the agency to choose to pursue those gifts and talents and make whatever we want of ourselves.
My mother, and her mother before her, encouraged all of my siblings to use music as a heavenly tool. She helped us to build on what was given us by our Heavenly Father, but each of my siblings and I could choose whether or not we would continue to pursue music. Today, if you had my sisters here each of them could come and direct this ward choir just as I have. We can stand up and sing together pretty much anything you want to put in front of us and blend with almost identical voices. (My brother has as much talent but had 8 sisters who would do it for him and so developed at a different way!) My parents helped us to stay service oriented and we learned never to say no to any calling by both my mom and dad.
A veil covers our memories of our premortal life, but our Father in Heaven knows who we are and what we did before we came here. He has chosen the time and place for each of us to be born so we can learn the lessons we personally need and do the most good with our individual talents and personalities.
He didn’t give my family all these trials this year just to be mean! There are lessons that have been learned and spiritual boons that have been given. He KNOWS what we need. He is our Father.
In D&C 93:30–34 we read that Our Heavenly Father knew we could not progress beyond a certain point unless we left Him for a time. He is a God of order and knew the results of what we needed - to be able to be like him. He wanted us to develop the godlike qualities that He has. To do this, we needed to leave our premortal home to be tested and to gain experience. Our spirits needed to be clothed with physical bodies. We had many tests we had to experience so that our “intelligence could act for itself and independently make the choices to return to Him.” Then we would need to leave our physical bodies at death and reunite with them in the Resurrection. Then we would receive immortal bodies like that of our Heavenly Father. If we passed our tests, we would receive the fulness of joy that our Heavenly Father has received. We all heard the plan, our spirits know the plan. But Heavenly Father knew we must be shielded so that “intelligence could act for itself” and the veil was placed. But he did not depart from us. He gave us so many helps, but we had to recognize them for what they were and come unto Him for his guidance. Thus we could obey Him because of our faith in Him, not because of our knowledge or memory of Him. In John 18:37 we are shown that He would help us recognize the truth when we heard it again on earth.
We learned that all of us would have trials in our lives: sickness, disappointment, pain, sorrow, and death. But we understood that these would be given to us for our experience and our good. In D&C 122:7 it reads: And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
This year has been very difficult. But it has been for my good and my families good. The experience that has been given us has brought us closer to God and helped us to be better siblings and learn to serve even through the sickness of heart.
Would I want to go thru it again, No. But I have been blessed with a firm testimony of the events of this year and how they have impacted my family. We aren’t perfect. We have plenty of faults, let me assure you. But we are children of our Father in Heaven who wants to return to Him. We are willing to survive trials and pain, hopefully gaining the necessary experience we were to obtain, to put us ready for the next test in our path back home.
My dad will still be struggling thru this next test this year. We are trying to stay positive and pray for the ability to be strong for him. But we trust in God and in our Savior Jesus Christ to make this test bearable and to strengthen us for the next test! We don’t discount that there will continue to be challenges, but along with the challenges come the miracles and the spiritual rewards that Heavenly Father will give us, based on our faith.
I pray that I will have the strength to bear it well. That I can prove my love to Him by my actions during the tests of my life.
I am so grateful to have the knowledge that we are a huge family, sent here to support and serve each other. No wonder we have such a great ward family. We ARE Family! I love you all and am so grateful to know you are in my corner when I need it and that I can be in yours as well.
I know Christ is the doorway that allows me to go home and I am so grateful to His sacrifices for me and for you.
I am so grateful for the chance to remember this and to write these things down. My family is my most prized possession!